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Lockheed Martin SR-72 spy plane
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Nov 5, 2013, 06:06 AM
 
Replacement for the SR-71. Mach 6 at high altitude, unmanned, New York to London in under an hour. So this would be for fast reaction movements, faster than resetting a satellite to a new position.

Won't be operational until 2030.

BBC News - US plans for hypersonic robot spy plane revealed

It'll be much easier if you just comply.
     
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Nov 5, 2013, 08:26 AM
 
Stories about the SR-71 blow me away. Things like when it sat on the runway fueled up it leaked like a sieve because every connection was designed to be tight at extremely high temperatures and a pressures, so while sitting on the ground everything was loose enough to basically pour fuel out. I have this book on my to-buy list from Amazon as I hear it's really good.

They have one outside the San Diego Aerospace Museum:

     
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Nov 5, 2013, 08:55 AM
 
The A-12/SR-71/SR-71a craft are really interesting because of all the problems they had to overcome. The lubricants are solid at room temperature, the tires have aluminum powder mixed into the rubber to reflect heat. The wing surfaces are corrigated to add more heat dissipation area. The points on the front of the engines move in and out to make sure the maximum air gets into the engines but not enough to blow the combustion out! The engines are Turbo-ramjets (P&W J58's) and after mach 2 or so they start bypassing the air around the engines and transition to ramjet mode where only 10% of the air goes through the engines to power hydraulics etc, with the rest supplying the ramjet configuration. The plane is very fast but NOT aerobatic by any means being an extended delta wing. Its only designed for 1.5+ 1.0- G forces. They take off at 240 mph! The A-12 was a single seat version, and they had a fuse that ended at the elevons, whereas the SR71's fuse extended another 6.5" for a better 'fitness ratio'. The YF12a was a fighter/interceptor that was built to insure that any Russian/Chinese bomber that nuked the US would NEVER get home. They used AIM -5 air-to air missiles, and had lower rudder fins that folded up for landings, like the SR71b/c trainers.
     
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Nov 5, 2013, 09:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by ajprice View Post
Replacement for the SR-71. Mach 6 at high altitude, unmanned, New York to London in under an hour. So this would be for fast reaction movements, faster than resetting a satellite to a new position.

Won't be operational until 2030.

BBC News - US plans for hypersonic robot spy plane revealed
2030? Plenty of time for it to be cancelled, sadly.
     
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Nov 5, 2013, 08:08 PM
 
It seems to fit Lockheed's M.O. lately--vaporware with never ending future promises of features, performance, and cost. See F-22 and F-35. I think a couple decades ago, Skunk Works must have changed hangs from engineering to accounting.
     
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Nov 5, 2013, 08:54 PM
 
Won't we have better satellite coverage in 15 years?
     
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Nov 5, 2013, 10:14 PM
 
Satellites can never replace aerial recon. Never. Satellite imaging technology can advance by leaps and bounds, but you can also put those same cameras on an airplane that can go over the area in question from every direction, frequently, either obviously or very stealthily. Satellites are limited by altitude, orbital mechanics, and an inability to alter or upgrade imaging hardware. On the other hand, the venerable (and retired) RF-4C could be configured with a huge assortment of cameras, either all or just one, and make Mach 1+ passes over the target area within hours of the target area being selected. (SRs appear to have had a slightly longer lead time before a run, but not much longer).

It's also important to realize that the SR-71 was built with 1955 technology. Originally pictured as an extremely high speed interceptor (the A-12 version), avionics were not up to targeting weapons launched from a Mach 3 platform, so they rethought the extremely capable airframe, and the best, most survivable airborne recon aircraft ever was born. It was originally to be designated the RS-71, but someone goofed up and instead of "reconnaissance, strategic" the designation was changed to "strategic reconnaissance." It was essentially bullet proof for the simple fact that nobody's interceptor airplanes or missiles could reach it. There are stories of aircrews finding out that a missile was inbound and simply goosing the throttles...and suddenly the missile didn't have a target anymore. The MiG-31 theoretically could have intercepted an SR, but only if the SR was completely unaware of the MiG; the MiG pilot would burn out the engines getting close to Mach 3, while the SR crew could simply change altitude and evade the MiG. Helluva nice aircraft.

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Nov 6, 2013, 07:40 AM
 
They were more of an 1959-1962 era plane, while the U-2 was a mid 1950's craft(Built in 88 days). The SR's had a practical top speed of Mach 3.4 but only for about 12-15 minutes before they had absorbed to much heat, and damage set in. The A-12's had flight issues, and the pilot had way too much to do, so the larger(6.5' longer) SR71 was built. The A-12's were still surveillance craft, with only 3 YF12a variants created. They were retired in the late 1960's as more SR71's were built. I think there were only 16 A-12's built and only about 32 SR71's built.
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 04:04 PM
 
I guess my point is a "spy" plane which has the heat signature of an ICBM seems very limited to me.
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 04:05 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I guess my point is a "spy" plane which has the heat and radar signature of an ICBM seems very limited to me.
Hiding in plain sight.
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 04:08 PM
 
The irony is, whatever we want to spy on will be empty, because everyone will have run away thinking it's World War III.
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 04:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
The irony is, whatever we want to spy on will be empty, because everyone will have run away thinking it's World War III.
People tend to forget in this day and age, but it's still rather difficult to hide anything strategically relevant within two or three hours (the time required for this plane to reach reconnaissance altitude over any random point on earth).
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 04:44 PM
 
What's worth hiding which we haven't already positioned our satellites over?

Who's the enemy for whom this is intended? The Soviets? I question the wisdom of flinging something at Mach 6 towards an enemy like that.
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 05:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
What's worth hiding which we haven't already positioned our satellites over?

Who's the enemy for whom this is intended? The Soviets? I question the wisdom of flinging something at Mach 6 towards an enemy like that.
You make a Good Point.

I don't know how complete satellite reconnaissance coverage of the planet is.

Of course, the key sentence in that article, which is what makes this such a prestigious project, is this:

Like its predecessor, the SR-72 will be designed for high-altitude surveillance but might also be fitted with weapons to strike targets.
     
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Nov 6, 2013, 05:53 PM
 
I tried to work out the scenarios in my head.

Let's say we get wind of something is afoot in Iran and we need to scramble. Overlooking the part where we have allies nearby to host our recon aircraft, if every goddamn inch of that country doesn't have satellites trained on it right now, someone isn't doing their job. You can spend all this money to record our Google searches, but you've got satellite holes in Iran?

A Soviet size enemy couldn't have that kind of coverage, but that brings us back to things which look like ICBMs being frowned upon.

Not to mention if you weaponize the platform then using it becomes an unquestionable act of war, unless you want to just hope it's a camera one and not a nuke one.

Hell. At Mach 6 you have a pretty nifty KE bunker buster.
     
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Nov 7, 2013, 06:58 AM
 
The SR flight path is not ballistic, and won't present the same signature (although typical missions appear to be set up as "orbits"). It's VERY FAST, but it is also a high-altitude, not extra-atmospheric, so it doesn't look like an ICBM. The Soviets HATED the SR because they knew exactly what it was but couldn't get at it, and they couldn't predict when it would pass - like they could with satellites - because it was piloted and could come from almost any direction.

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Nov 7, 2013, 07:49 AM
 
They will probably fly in in just a little higher than commercial aircraft and at a lower speed and then put the throttle to the windscreen, climb out and get all the info they can, and relay it back to us. Just for the fear factor they may fly it at 25K feet at mach 6 right over someplace just to give them a sonic boom. This was done a few times with the Blackbirds over the decades.
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 10:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
People tend to forget in this day and age, but it's still rather difficult to hide anything strategically relevant within two or three hours (the time required for this plane to reach reconnaissance altitude over any random point on earth).
That is exactly the point of this type reconnaissance. Obtaining positive ID VERY quickly is a means to avoid conflict as well (Fog of War.)

Hats off to the engineers at Palmdale for reportedly solving the issues that have kept scramjets under Mach 4. Quite a feat of engineering. Sure would be nice to see a young Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson type at Palmdale again.

Exciting times.
To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
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Nov 11, 2013, 11:02 AM
 
Is not the main issue the thing starts to melt at that speed in an atmosphere?
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 02:29 PM
 
Scramjets have issues way beyond just material strain and overheating.

It's extremely difficult to get the airflow right to make things work at that kind of speed.
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 02:53 PM
 
You can only have issues beyond melting if you don't melt in the first place.
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 02:58 PM
 
You just have to dissipate the heat.
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 03:13 PM
 
I seem to recall Mach 4 in an atmosphere being some sort of barrier past which normal materials begin to vaporize.

Of course, you can get past it, but it's one of those "break points", like Mach 1, where the physics changes on you.


Edit: I want to say it comes into play when designing big iron like a naval cannon. Those have enough push for air resistance to smoke the shell before it hits the target. I could be wrong though.
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 05:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I seem to recall Mach 4 in an atmosphere being some sort of barrier past which normal materials begin to vaporize.

Of course, you can get past it, but it's one of those "break points", like Mach 1, where the physics changes on you.
The trick is to not achieve those speeds in the part of the atmosphere where normal materials begin to vaporize. Which is one reason why these scramjets are so difficult to build: they need both air and speed to work — two inverse ingredients that need to be carefully balanced.
     
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Nov 11, 2013, 05:14 PM
 
Makes sense.

I also remembered it's an issue with railguns.


Edit: the speed part, not the needing air part.
     
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Nov 30, 2013, 09:48 AM
 
Originally Posted by BadKosh View Post
You just have to dissipate the heat.
Yes. IMO, I think this is where much of the breakthrough is. Primarily new composites, possibly a hybrid Ceramic. Secondarily, Air Flow Design (reducing turbulence.)
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